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‘Lyricism of an abduction’: Imogen Wade’s ‘The Time I Was Mugged in New York City’ wins National Poetry Competition

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A poem described by the judges as “extraordinary and thought-provoking … whose paradoxical lyricism in the account of an abduction demands reading and re-reading”  has won first prize in this year’s National Poetry Competition. ‘The Time I Was Mugged in New York City’ by Imogen Wade was inspired by a real-life experience. Imogen said: “Writing this poem helped me step into my memories and unknot an event that I’d never processed. I revisit my nineteen year-old self, an exchange student in the hazy cityscape of New York, as she travels from the airport to the station … I learned that the past doesn’t always stay past and sometimes in order to process a trauma, I have to revisit it - even if that means entering the same van I am trying to escape from. Process is progress and poetry carries great psychotherapeutic power.”

Judges Jane Draycott, Clare Pollard and Will Harris said of the winning poem: “Opening with the speaker’s recollection of ‘finding herself’ in her abductor’s  van, the poem narrates in strangely beautiful detail how she travels with him as his prisoner through the city, where he finally  takes all her money and then helps her out of his van ‘like a princess’, holding her bags ‘like a vassal’ and kissing her on the cheek.

“It’s a poem which very skilfully and subtly opens up the psychological complexity of assault accompanied by an insidious kind of chivalry - ‘Sometimes in my dreams…I don’t need to be ordered’ - where the mugging might also perhaps stand for other kinds  of violation or abuse or manipulative relationship. Most skilfully of all, its invitation to think and think again about the apparent paradox at its heart hauntingly mirrors the recurrence of the victim’s after-dream at the poem’s astonishing close.”

Imogen Wade grew up in Harlow, Essex. She has previously won first prize in the Ware Poets Open Competition 2023 and was runner up in The Poetry Business New Poets Prize 2023. She was also commended in the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award, run by The Poetry Society.


The Time I Was Mugged in New York City

by Imogen Wade  


I told people that the travel sickness pills

made me stupid. I entered JFK with a red

suitcase and no one to greet me. A man

came up to me, dressed in black. I found

myself in a car park by an expensive van

and he was holding my luggage. Get In, he

said. There wasn’t a single thought in my

head. I found myself inside his van; he

locked the doors immediately after; made

me switch my phone off as we went under

the bridge. We spoke about Niagara Falls.

He chose the narrowest roads in the city,

a needle making a joke out of Manhattan.

When he pulled up outside Grand Central

station, he said – don’t get out, there are

bad people around. He made me unzip

my suitcase, books and bras spilling over

the seat, and give him all my money. Then

he helped me out of the van like I was a

princess; he held my bags like a vassal and

kissed my cheek. Get In, I hear whenever

a man pushes me too far; Get In to my big

black car. Sometimes in my dreams, I am

sitting beside him on the leather; I don’t

need to be ordered and together, we drive

with melodious speed over the East River.



Second prize went to Fawzia Muradali Kane, and Rency Jumaoas Raquid was third. Commended were AV Bridgwood, george graves, Harriet Jae, Jack Nicholls, Katie O’Pray, Anna Selby, and Madeleine Wurzburger.  


The following poets were included on the longlist:

Matt Abbott, Nicole Adabunu, Tomi Adegbayibi, Sanah Ahsan, Luke Allan, Audrey Ardern-Jones, Polly Atkin, Tiffany Atkinson, Becky Balfourth, Emily Barker, Sarah Barr , AJ Baumel, Ayomide Bayowa, Sharon Black, Adrian Blackledge, Paul Blake, Leo Boix, Claire Booker, Tim Bradford, Paula Brancato, Izzy Brittain, Michael Brown, Kizziah Burton, Michael Chang, Alexandra Chand, Kate Clanchy, Geraldine Clarkson, Michael Coley-Smith, Leyla Colpan, Courtney Conrad, Michael Connaughton, Alexandra Corrin-Tachibana, Ishan Costello, Jenny Danes, Caroline Davies, Chantale Davies, Annie Davison, Hélène Demetriades, Diepreye , Jack Dunlop, Ruby Eastwood, Shakeema Edwards, Geraint Ellis, Richard Evans, Marie-Louise Eyres, Pascal Fallas, Tamsyn Farr, Cleo Felstead, Mark Fiddes, Victoria Gatehouse , Sarah Gibbons, Kiara Gilbert, Hannah Godden, Rich Goodson, Katie Griffiths, Fee Griffin, Bethany Handley, Susannah Hart, Emily Harrison, Jack Haworth, Erica Hesketh, Sam Hickford, Susan E Holland, Sarah Hulme, Sharan Hunjan, Kirsten Irving, Helen Ivory, Molly Jackson, Harriet Jae, Bradley James, Emma Jeremy, Kirsty Jones, Lydia Kennaway, Safiya Kamaria Kinshasa, Logan Klutse, Kate Kuhlmann, Vanessa Lampert, Clara-Laeila Laudette, Emma Lee, Hershel Lidan, Marilyn Longstaff, lisa luxx , Kevin MacAlan, Ewan Mackinnon, David McCormack, Paul McMahon, Clive McWilliam, Maurane , David May, Alex Mepham, Hannah Morrison, JLM Morton, Elias Noren, Oluwaseun Olayiwola, Kathryn O’Borne, Rebecca O’Connor, Neil O’Hara, Ann Pilling, Felicity Plunkett, Sarah Powell, Wendy Pratt, Mallory Profeta, Rose Proudfoot, Victoria Pugh, Amanda Quaid, Helen Quah, GS Quinn, Alesha Racine, Tom Rees, Dave Robertson, Rosie Rockel, Sharon Rockman, Stevie Ronnie, Phoebe Rose, Terese Säljö, Jane Satterfield, Rami Schandall, Amy Schofield, Laura Scott, Tim Scott, Mara Adamitz Scrupe, Michael Naghten Shanks, Hannah Silva, Tracey Slaughter, Caroline Smith, Meier Smith, Brian Sneeden, Sue Spiers, Jean Stevens, Mark Stewart, Anne Stillings, Angus Strachan, Laura Strickland, Errol T, Christina Thatcher, Jane Talbot, Charlotte Salkind, Royston Tester, Lauren Thomas, Oenone Thomas, Marvin Thompson, Pam Thompson, Basil du Toit, Eliza O’Toole, Harriet Torr, Aileen La Tourette, Cat Turhan, Suzannah V Evans, Jack Walters, Christian Ward, Isabel Waters-Widmanski, Rishika Williams, Olivia Wilson, Carson Wolfe, Shaw Worth, William Wyld, Hebe Yu





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John F Keane

Wed 3rd Apr 2024 09:05

Getting robbed was a good outcome, given the stark alternatives.

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M.C. Newberry

Mon 1st Apr 2024 17:46

Hmm. I wonder if this points to my own chances of an award for writing about the day I suffered a ruptured right testicle
when challenging a pair of arimed robbers while off-duty in
a local London bookies. Or Is that just stretching the
imagination a bit far in any real poetical sense?

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Stephen Gospage

Mon 1st Apr 2024 09:49

I agree with RA. This becomes more intense and disturbing with each reading. A brave and thoughtful poem and a worthy winner.

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R A Porter

Sun 31st Mar 2024 15:47

I found this poem mesmerising. At first I thought “isn’t this prose?” but the more I read it the more dense and powerful it is. It makes me want to experiment more with form and language. Superb - and shocking.

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